“Hey, hey, are you fourteen?” asked one of the friends for what seemed like the hundredth time.
“Nope I’m not fourteen. I’m twenty-one.” I answered for the hundredth time.
I work at a nonprofit organization called Milal and my responsibilities include supervising high school volunteers, assisting kids with disabilities with their needs, and teaching health education. We refer to them as “friends” as a friendly term to build rapport.
Upon my first day at work – Milal After School – I was ready and prepared to whip out my professional nursing skills that I have acquired for the past 3 years and apply them in this new environment. The first question I asked the teacher in charge of the after school program was “So what are the meds I have to give to these kids?” She looked puzzled and replied with a disappointing answer. She explained that I will not be touching any meds or even get close to their medical history. Right then, I realized that I had to shift my focus completely. I had projected my own expectations for this program and not been completely open minded to how I can be molded differently through this experience.
The following day the After School teacher and I brainstormed on ways to incorporate my college education into their program and we decided that I could teach them about health once a week. Once we established this, I was very excited to pass on the knowledge I have gathered from my Adult Health classes and clinicals.
The first lesson I taught was on hand hygiene. The class size was 7 Milal friends and 9 volunteers. We all happily sang “Happy Birthday” twice as we rubbed our hands in a circular motion. Throughout the lesson I hoped that they would really understand the importance behind such a simple task. Even though I couldn’t test their knowledge on the significance of hand washing, I knew the friends had learned the skills I taught them because I witnessed their demonstration of the proper hand washing technique in the bathroom.
This internship has definitely allowed me to explore a career interest that I haven’t considered before: health educator. Among many roles that nurses have to juggle, educator is a vital one. It entails assisting patients in gaining knowledge about their health and medication. And I have developed a small yet strong desire to perhaps educate the parents of those with disabilities to ensure accountability within the family.
One of my Milal friends persistently asks the same question to me. I suppress my annoyance at his inquiry and respond in a friendly manner the same answer. I’ve always wondered if he will ever break this habit. But his obedience to performing correct hand hygiene has allowed me to see hope in my investment in their lives. I want to help shape good habits that would positively affect their health.
Written by Cristine Oh, BC Class of 2017